Sara Paretsky

Sara Paretsky (Jun. 8, 1947 in Ames, Iowa) is a contemporary American author of detective fiction. Paretsky was raised in Eastern Kansas. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in political science. She did community service work on the south side of Chicago in 1966 and returned in 1968 to work there. She ultimately completed a Ph.D. in history at the University of Chicago, writing on The Breakdown of Moral Philosophy in New England Before the Civil War, and finally earned an MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. Married to a professor of physics at the University of Chicago, she has lived in Chicago since 1968.


The protagonist of all but one of Paretsky's novels is V.I. Warshawski, a female private investigator. Warshawski's eclectic personality defies easy categorization. She drinks Black Label, breaks into houses looking for clues, and can hold her own in a street fight, but also she pays attention to her clothes, sings opera along with the radio, and enjoys her sex life. Although Warshawski's temper, impulsiveness, and independence land her in most of the danger she faces, the reader still roots for her to win out against the thugs, swindlers, and male chauvinists.

More than any other contemporary writer, Paretsky is credited with transforming the role and image of women in the crime novel. The Winter, 2007 issue of Clues--the only scholarly journal that discusses crime fiction-- is devoted to her work.

Like those of most successful mystery writers including Dick Francis and Robert B. Parker, Paretsky's plots are based on the traditional formula: someone is murdered in the early pages to conceal a crime (which often involve important corporations and their business in Paretsky's novels), and more killings follow, culminating with Warshawski herself narrowly escaping being killed in a climactic confrontation with the murderer. As with Francis, the lack of variety in Paretsky's storylines is compensated for by rich details about the lives and businesses of Paretsky's characters. And, as in Parker's novels, local color abounds, in Paretsky's case including traffic on the Stevenson Expressway and the perennial travails of the Cubs.

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